Edinburgh Preview: Is Monogamy Dead? (Camden Head, London)

In bed with Rosie Wilby. Photograph: Courtesy of the artist

In bed with Rosie Wilby. Photograph: Courtesy of the artist

Rating: ****

Comedian, musician, and broadcaster, Rosie Wilby, has reached a crossroads in her life. Noticing that all her friends are breaking up, she wonders if monogamy is all it’s cracked up to be, and if not, what is the answer? With the help of Ed Millipede, and a selection of audience members, she explores alternative relationship structures, and what might be right for her.

This brand new show seems initially more lecture than stand-up. Armed with a flipchart and a load of “scientific” data that she’s gathered herself, a 45 minute analysis of monogamy vs polyarmory is at hand. But don’t fear; there’s still plenty of comedy.

Wilby’s style verges towards the surreal (think Eddie Izzard if he was a lesbian and wore Doc Martins instead of heels), but what has always been great about her act is the personal anecdotes and jokes that she brings to the show. Slightly self-deprecatory, she’s never self-indulgent and each moment of her life she regales us with is always relevant to the point she’s making. It’s really nice to get her quirky view on the debate, rather than actually going through a dry academic analysis. It’s this informal and personal approach that really adds a charm to the show. You really connect and laugh with her a lot, and it feels that there’s a real polyamorous relationship between you, Wilby, and the rest of the audience (ok, maybe not quite). But there’s beyond the chortles there lies a real insight into the subject that is keen and fresh. It’s her geekery and intelligence that pulls and the comedy that keeps you there.

The show is an orgy of laughs, from a makeshift game of Family Fortunes, to a live experiment with cornflakes and some “sexy” magazines. The gags themselves are incredibly wry and well observed, and often bang on the money when it comes to some of the more satirical swipes. However, there are just a few criticisms: after all, the course of true love never did run smooth. Being lesbian means that a few of Wilby’s jokes are aimed squarely at the LGBT community, meaning that some heterosexual members of the audience might be a bit bemused by some of the references. But the main issue is that the subject of monogamy/polyamoury is actually a really interesting one, and although Wilby’s ramblings and asides provide plenty of guffaws, you actually start to really want to get back to the subject at hand at points, and wish that perhaps it was all a little less meandering.

As this was a preview, and the very first time Wilby had performed the show to a paying audience, there were noticeably a few things that could be tweaked and smoothed out. But even with these taken into account, what’s already there is a really great show. By the time she’s already done the further previews in Edinburgh, the show will no doubt be a slick piece of entertainment. Ultimately, Wilby’s combination of a personable look at monogamy and some great gags result in a show with as funny as it is genuinely interesting.

Is Monogamy Dead? previewed at the Camden Head, London, NW1 0LU, on 29 July 2013 as part of the Camden Fringe Festival. For more information about the festival, visit www.camdenfringe.com.

Rosie will be playing her show at the Assembly Rooms, between 1 – 25 August 2013. Tickets are £7 (concessions available). To book, visit www.edfringe.com.

For more information on Rosie Wilby visit www.rosiewilby.com.

Please note, as this was a preview show ahead of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, some of the content may be adjusted ahead of the festival residency.

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